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Full text of "Byzantine Churches In Constantinople"

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was found in a state of almost complete ruin.1 If for no other reason, the proximity of the church to the palace or Blachernae, which had become the favourite residence of the court, brought the dilapidated pile into notice, and its restoration was undertaken by the emperor's mother-in-law, Maria, the beautiful and talented granddaughter of Samuel, the famous king of Bulgaria, and niece of Aecatherina, the consort of Isaac L Comnenus. Maria had married Androni-cus Ducas, a son of Michael VII., and the marriage of her daughter Irene Ducaena to Alexius was designed to unite the rival pretensions of the families of the Comneni and the Ducas to the throne. It had been strenuously opposed by Anna Dalassena, the mother of Alexius, and its accomplishment in 1077, notwithstanding such formidable opposition, is no slight proof of the diplomatic skill and determination of the mother of the bride. Nor can it be doubted that Irene's mother acted a considerable part in persuading Alexius, when he mounted the throne, not to repudiate his young wife, as he was tempted to do in favour of a fairer face. Perhaps the restoration of the Chora was a token of gratitude for the triumph of her maternal devotion.
The church was rebuilt on the plan which it presents to-day, for in the account of the repairs made in the fourteenth century it is distinctly stated that they concerned chiefly the outer portion of the edifice,2 To Alexius' mother-in-law, therefore, may be assigned the central part of the structure, a cruciform hall ; the dome, so far as it is not Turkish, the beautiful marble incrustation upon the walls, the mosaic eikons of the Saviour and of the Theotokos on the piers of the eastern dome-arch, and the exquisite marble carving above the latter eikon—all eloquent in praise of the taste and munificence that characterised the eleventh century in Constantinople. Probably the church was then dedicated to the Saviour, like the three other Comnenian churches in the city, the Pantepoptes, the Pantokrator, and S. Thekla.
The mother-in-law of Alexius I. was, however, not alone in her interest in the Chora. Her devotion to the monastery was shared also by her grandson the sebastocrator Isaac.
1 Niceph. Greg. iii. p. 459.                                 2 Ibid. L p. 459.